Moving Forward, Conclusion: Keep Seeking!

What will keep you ‘Moving Forward’, spiritually?

What will actually lead you to ‘Full Life’ in Jesus Christ?

After all, if all we do is start, but we don’t continue, that’s a failure!

In this blog series, we’ve talked about ‘Moving Forward’ by getting rid of the garbage in our lives, and we’ve talked about Moving Forward by focusing on/making room for the Good Stuff…but how do we keep moving forward?

Think about any journey you’ve taken…or any trip you’ve planned…or any strategy you’ve developed–there’s always a destination, a goal.

What is the GOAL of the Christian life?

To be sure, there are lots of things to do…lots of ‘spiritual activities’ to prioritize.

Time in the Word of God, consistent involvement in church, serving others in His name…

But that’s not the ‘goal’. Those are steps along the way.

…and, if we’re not careful, they can become ‘religious hoops’ that we jump through, with no real sense of purpose. In those cases, they become ‘obligations’…lifeless ‘duties’ we follow, hoping that one day we’ll ‘get it’.

What, then, is the Goal of the Christian life?

What is the ‘pursuit’ that gives your life direction, meaning and clarity, as a Christ-follower?

I think it has to be this: to Seek God.

Now some are thinking ‘wait…I’ve already found Him!’, and in one sense, you’re correct. If you are a born-again believer in Jesus, then you have ‘found’ Him.

However, that is not the end, but the beginning.

‘Finding God’ in the sense of becoming a believer, being ‘born of the Spirit’ (see John 3:3-6) is like your birth-day. You don’t stop living after that!

Many of us, children of God by faith in Jesus, have forgotten that.

We’ve been ‘born again’, and we’re headed for heaven, but we’re sort of in a ‘holding pattern’ here. We’re stalled. We’re waiting…we’re certainly not ‘moving forward’.

Why is that?

Because, in many respects, we’ve stopped ‘seeking Him’.

In Jeremiah 29, the prophet has a message for those in exile. He wants them to know that it won’t always be that way. There will be a time when God will restore them.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

They were originally placed ‘in exile’ because, as a nation, they had been unfaithful to God. They had taken Him for granted, they had intermarried and begun to worship the ‘gods’ of the nations around them. He’d warned them and called them back, but they’d only responded half-heartedly, and had continued on their misguided path.

So, they were experiencing what He’d promised them: the Discipline of the Lord.

Now, He was promising them that one day, they’d be restored.

What would be the key?

They would begin to “seek Him with all their heart” (29:13)

In Hebrews 11, we’re reminded of a similar thing: without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Seeking God, it seems, is pretty important…and we can’t do it with half our hearts, a portion of our minds, and a fraction of our behavior. We need to seek God COMPLETELY!

Fellow Christian, are you ‘stalled’ in your faith?

Are you in ‘neutral’?

If so, let me just ask you: Are you Seeking God…for real?

Here @ KCC, we talk about ‘Relentlessly pursuing an ever-deepening relationship with God’.

By that, we mean to say that, no matter who I am, no matter how long I’ve been a Believer, I know that there’s more. I know that my loving Father is inviting me to go deeper, to know Him more, experience Him more…and we want to go there.

What about you?

When was the last time you really fell on your knees to ‘SEEK God’ with all your heart?

Now is the time…Today is the day…This is the hour!

Cry out to Him and ask Him to renew and revive you! Ask Him to bring you deeper…and to keep you moving closer!

Do not settle for ‘what has been’…seek Him more!

He wants to ‘Start a Fire’ within you…and keep it burning!

Will you let Him?

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Moving Forward, Part 2: The Good Stuff

“Let us throw aside every weight, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

In yesterday’s blog, we considered how the principles in that verse apply to our Physical, Financial, and Vocational health. (Go here to read: https://pastordajo.com/2017/08/23/moving-forward-part-1-throwing-out-the-garbage/).

We realized that, IF we are going to actually ‘Move Forward’ and make real progress in these areas, it can’t be done by merely increasing some positive elements–like starting to exercise, or adopting a budget, as important as those are.

If we really want to ‘Move Forward’, we simply must ‘Throw out the Garbage’.

How does this apply to our Spiritual lives?

For the Christ follower, it means constantly embracing the mindset that John the Baptist adopted when he said, plainly, “He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30, NIV).

I need to be willing to identify, and eliminate…turn my back on…repent of the sins that I’ve been committing in my life, telling myself that ‘I can’t seem to find victory’ in those areas, and getting too comfortable with them. We must also be willing to set aside the habits and practices that are simply holding us back…even if they are not ‘sin’, in and of themselves.

Spiritually speaking, God is always inviting us closer.

He always wants us–as His children through our faith in Jesus Christ–to move closer to Him. He is the perfect, loving, gracious Heavenly Father who has no ‘ill-will’–zero–toward us. He isn’t too busy, He isn’t too crabby, He isn’t too stressed, and He isn’t too tired for us. He always has time for us–as His children–to come closer. He constantly invites us in. That is His character. He is the PERFECT Father.

Here @ KCC, we talk a lot about “Relentlessly pursuing an ever-deepening relationship with God”–and He wants us to!

With that in mind, think of this scenario:

A child has been adopted into a good home, where the Father is a loving, attentive, present, and in all ways healthy Father figure. He wants, more than anything, for this new child to know that they are welcome in to the family. They have been given all the rights of family members, they have access to the Father, they are invited to sit at the table for family meals, etc.

Imagine that child finding this too good to be true, and therefore–in order to protect themselves emotionally–they refuse to accept it. Day after day they refuse to speak to the Father, they refuse to eat at the table, they refuse the Father’s invitations.

If things stay this way, this child will never really ‘know’ the Father’s love–not because it’s not there or it’s not real–but because they refuse to drop their guard, adjust their agenda, and receive the Father. In this case, the Father’s heart is broken because He knows this child is precious to Him, and He wants the child to ‘know’ and ‘rest’ in that love.

When you and I–as believers in Jesus Christ–make the decision to continue in some sin, or to continue to shut down the promptings of God (through the Holy Spirit) to spend time with Him in prayer, worship, studying the Word, etc…when you and I choose the distractions of this world over closeness/intimacy with God, we are acting like that child.

We will never really ‘experience’ God’s love at its fullest if we continue to busy ourselves with the distractions of this life. C.S. Lewis wrote,

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”–C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

It really does come down to this: Do you really believe that God–your Heavenly Father, through Jesus–loves you? Do you believe He has ‘Full Life’ in store for you? Do you believe that growing closer to Him will lead to blessing–in this life, and in eternity?

Conversely, do you believe that ‘you know better’ than Him? Do you believe that this world is where you ‘belong’? Do you believe that the stuff of this life is ‘the Best there is’?

Your answer to those questions will determine whether or not you are willing to replace the ‘garbage’ with The Good Stuff–God’s best.

…and that will determine whether or not you will continue to ‘Move Forward’.

Ultimately, if you want to ‘Move Forward’, spiritually, you and I must Throw out the Garbage, and replace it with The Good Stuff.

God knows The Good Stuff. He wants it for you…because He Loves you!

Moving Forward, Part 1: Throwing Out the Garbage

Many times in our lives we find ourselves ‘stuck’.

We want to Move Forward in a particular area, but find that we are not able to.

For you, it may be a weight-loss goal…for others,  it’s financial progress…for some, it may be a vocational or educational milestone you’re trying to reach.

All of us, at some points, find ourselves ‘stuck’ and making little or no progress.

This realization, although concerning, is also important…because once we realize we’re ‘stuck’, we then wake up to that fact.

What we do next becomes very important.

Will we seek to get used to it as a ‘new normal’, or will we do whatever is necessary to shift into another gear and move forward? It’s up to us–individually–to decide.

Take weight loss.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve lost 26 pounds…mostly due to much more consistent exercise. My diet has not really changed much. I still eat cookies, I still eat chips, etc. (True, I do not eat as many, especially not at any one time, but I do still indulge in these things.)

Here’s the problem: my weight loss has stopped. I still want to lose at least 10 lbs, and my progress has stalled.

Now, it’s up to me: Is this goal important enough to actually change my diet? Will I decide to eat even fewer sweets, chips, etc.? Will I ‘pass’ on the bacon? Will I increase vegetable intake even more?

It’s up to me to decide.

Similarly, many of us make financial progress…we begin to get ‘on top of’ our finances, to the point where we’re not living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ any more…but just barely. There’s wiggle room, so the constant pressure is now off.

That’s good. That’s progress.

However, in order to take the ‘next steps’ and go further to begin to gain actual financial security, and to build wealth, we will need to decide: Am I willing to do more? Am I willing to cut the cable for awhile, stop going out to dinner, etc….in order to build up an ‘Emergency Fund’, and invest in savings?

It’s up to you.

In both cases (and many more), we need to decide: Am I ready to Throw Out the Garbage?

Am I ready to get rid of the excess and begin to actually take charge of this situation?

Am I ready to go beyond ‘losing some weight’, and actually become healthy?

Am I ready to go further than ‘avoiding crises’, to actually become financially secure…and even generous?

If so, we must be willing to ‘throw out the garbage’…to eliminate the distractions and the stuff–which may not be ‘wrong’, per se–but which is definitely holding us back. We must lay aside that extra stuff if we really want to move forward.

The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Let us throw aside every weight, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

We’ll consider what this means in our spiritual life tomorrow, but for now, consider what it means in your Physical health…your Financial health…your Educational or Vocational life…

What do you need to ‘throw aside’–which may not be ‘sin’, per se, but is definitely holding you back?

Remember, Jesus said that He came to give His followers, ‘Life…to the Full’ (John 10:10).

That means life…the way God means it to be lived…in every area.

That’s right…Jesus even cares about your financial life, your physical health, your vocational life…all of it.

So pray about it!

Have the courage to ask “Lord Jesus, is there something you want me to ‘lay aside’ in order to experience Full Life the way you want me to? If so, show me, Lord!”

It may be that there’s ‘garbage’ in your life that you need to dispose of…and once you do, you’ll take major steps forward!

Are you ready?

Let’s Move Forward!

Continuing the Fight…for what is right!

The above clip, from Remember The Titans (GREAT movie about MUCH more than football), challenges the athletes at TC Williams High School in Virginia to ‘take a lesson from the dead’, and to conquer the battle with prejudice within…a battle that many gave their lives in during the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

I remember the first time I saw that movie, I explained to my kids that the events of the movie (based on a true story), happened in 1971…when I was 9 years old. In other words, this kind of prejudice was still in existence in my lifetime.

It was hard for my kids to believe.

So, fast forward to 2017…and the words of the movie clip still ring true:

“50,000 men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we’re fighting amongst ourselves…”

How can this be true? How can there STILL be people who judge by the external color of skin?

Because hatred dies hard. Prejudice, once learned is easy to pass on and difficult to root out.

I remember around that time that I went to a parochial school where I had a few black classmates, Tony, Craig, Nancy, Jerome and Darryl were with me some or all of my 1st–8th grade years. I genuinely loved them as friends, but even so, I had no idea the kind of feelings they must have dealt with every day, walking into a school where they we outnumbered about 95% to 5%.

When, as is almost inevitable, middle school boys teased about the things that made them ‘different’ (as middle school boys often do), it must have felt humiliating…but they were powerless. They needed someone from the 95% to stand up for them. Did I do it? I don’t remember. I do remember being good friends with them, and genuinely enjoying each other.

Did we ever talk about it? Nope.

I wish I would have. I wish I could see then what I see now…that we’re STILL needing to fight this battle with racism, as amazing as that is…and that it is partly MY responsibility to speak out against it, as one in the ‘majority’ class.

In particular I, as a born-again Christian–who has been ‘adopted’ into the family of God, along with all others–of all races, nationalities and origins–by faith in Jesus Christ, need to understand that externals like race DO. NOT. MATTER!

What matters is that we are created in the image of God!

“then God said”Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…so God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them…” (Genesis 1:26-27)

Guess what?

Hatred still finds root in the heart of human beings.

Prejudice is still and issue in our nation, even after all these years.

…and we–the ‘majority’ class–still have a responsibility to speak out against it.

Whether we’re the President of the United States, the Pastor of a local church, or the guy in the lunchroom at work or at school.

We MUST keep pushing prejudice aside, keep affirming love, and keep fighting the fight so that one day all men (and women) will be treated equally–and in the words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

I could quote the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, but I think he said it best…

Work It Out!

“So work out your salvation…”

We know that ‘salvation’–that new life that God has given us, through faith in Jesus Christ–is only By His Grace (Ephesians 2:8-10, John 3:1-17)…so what, exactly, does it mean to ‘work it out’?

Depending on the version of the Bible you’re reading, the Scriptures say it this way: Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” (Philippians 2:12)

Show the results of your salvation.

What are the results of our salvation?

They are freedom from the power of sin, freedom to follow the Lord’s will and live out the faith He’s called us to, freedom to experience “Life…to the Full” as Jesus promised (John 10:10).

It is for our good, and it is the ability to live life, the way it was meant to be lived!

How does it work?

It requires me to submit to God’s work within me…to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, who’s busy helping me conform to the lifestyle of following Jesus. As the Scripture continues…For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:13)

It is for my good, and for His glory!

Too often we buy into the mindset which says ‘I know better’ than God.

I know better than Him what is for my good…I know better than Him what will satisfy…I know better than Him what leads to freedom, peace, joy…and in each and every case, we’re wrong. We don’t know better.

Therefore, the best way to the best life is for me to willingly submit myself to His will, as revealed in His Word, in every area of life. To ‘show the results of my salvation’ in everything.

Make no mistake: God has all the power necessary to enable us to change our lives. He has everything He needs to lead us into a new lifestyle, new relationships, new approaches to our work, school, finances, health….everything!

That’s the great news.

Our challenge is to ‘work it out’ by cooperating with Him. Trust Him. Learn and submit to His Word, in every area of life.

When we finally make the choice to do that, everything changes for the better!

So ‘work it out’ by willingly, enthusiastically submitting to Him, today!

 

 

Remind Me, Father…

Heavenly Father, Remind me…

That my future is in Your hands…

That my significance comes from You…

That You know the best plans for my best life…

That I need not fear…

That my finances are not my security…

That my job is not my identity…

That my calling comes from You…

That You love me without fail…

That Your grace is sufficient for me…

That Your power is made perfect in my weakness…

That You give me the strength I need for any challenge…

That You will walk with me through any trials…

That You lead me on to victory, as I seek You first.

That my enemy comes to mess everything up, but that Jesus leads me to Full Life!

Father, remind me of these things, for your glory, in the name of Jesus.

Amen!

Why’d You Choose THEM?

I’ve been reading through Genesis this summer.

I really enjoy the story of God’s creation, His selection of Abraham, to make into a nation that would bless the entire world (through the person of Jesus). I enjoy reading how The Lord worked with the people…but I am often left asking, ‘God, why in the world would you choose them?’

After all, they really ‘messed it up’ on several occasions.

Think about Abraham…after God had promised him that He’d make Him into a great nation, and that “all the nations of the earth will be blessed through you”, and that “those who bless you I will bless and those who curse you will be cursed”(Genesis 12:1-3)…after all that, Abraham gives in to fear, and devises his plans…first to pass Sarah off as his sister (rather than his wife) out of fear of the Egyptians (Genesis 12:10-20), then to ‘help God out’ by having a child with Hagar, Sarah servant (Genesis 16), then to lie (again) about Sarah as his sister (Genesis 20)!

Isaac, for his part, does a similar thing with his wife, Rebekah (Genesis 26)!

Jacob, the younger of Isaac’s sons, gets his father’s blessing by deception, and continues a lifestyle of tumultuous ‘faith’ for decades.

It causes me to wonder, Why, God, would you choose them?

Yet, I think, when I take a step back, that it says a lot more about God than about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the nation of Israel. I think it speaks to the grace of God. GRACE is a major theme in the Scriptures, and it’s not only found in the New Testament! Grace is part of God’s character!

Good thing, too!

After all, when I consider myself, and my own inconsistencies…my own failures, fears and sins–even after God has saved me, given me new spiritual life through Jesus (John 3:1-16), even after He has said “If anyone (including me) is in Christ, He is a new creation! The old life is gone, new LIFE has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, emphasis mine). Even after Jesus promised, ‘I have come that they might have life to the full!’ (John 10:10), even after I’ve read of the beautiful truth that “…nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[p] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)even after all those things, I still fall on my face, I still fail. I still give in to fear, my faith still wavers, and I still sin.

It forces me to ask, ‘God, why would you choose…Me?’

Alas, both the people of Israel and the people of the Church are chosen because of the love, grace, and mercy of God.

…and that’s a good thing!